Let’s get the most common bad gamer gift out of the way. Many well-meaning loved ones wrongly believe a game would make a great gift for a gamer. Wrong. 99% of the time PC gamers prefer to buy their own games. If they want a game badly they’ve probably already bought it. Don’t buy a gift for a gamer unless you have played alongside the recipient and are very familiar with gaming and what they like. You’re also safe if they’ve mentioned a specific game they don’t have to you, but I assume you wouldn’t be reading this article if that were the case.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the gifts. As a former semi-professional tournament gamer and a current casual gamer I hope that I can gather some gifts that any gamer will appreciate.
Huge, Soft-Surface Mouse Pad
One of the great debates in the gaming community is whether a hard or a soft surface is better for gaming. Most gamers have given up on hard mouse surfaces in favor of superior soft-surface mouse mats. The reasons for this are pretty straightforward:
- Soft surfaces are more comfortable
- Soft surfaces don’t wear smooth spots as fast, and an inconsistent texture is about as bad as it gets.
- Soft surfaces don’t wear down the teflon feet of a mouse nearly as quickly.
The Qck Heavy pad is awesome because it provides a ton of padding for extended gaming sessions. It’s also huge and offers plenty of surface area. If it’s too large for the desk it can also be cut down using a blade. If you do trim it, cut it on the side that will not be in use, because it will fray a little.
Surround-Sound Gaming Headset
If you see your loved one using earbuds or cheap headphones while playing, help the noob out. Surround sound is the only way to game. With the right headset you can tell what sounds are behind you and what sounds are in front of you: an obvious advantage if you’re trying to avoid getting shot in the back. Even MMO players will appreciate the more immersive feel of 7.1 surround sound.
Microphone and speaker audio quality is obviously important. Quality is one reason wireless headsets are still mostly shunned by the gaming community. The product I’ve highlighted sounds great, and those on the other end of the conversation say the mic comes in clear. And you can be certain this headset is gaming gear because it glows unnecessarily like all PC gaming gear.
Great for any gamer, a must-have for FPS (first-person shooter) gamers.
This is one most gamers don’t have, usually because they don’t how much it could help. A UPS (uninterruptable power supply) prevents little power spikes from doing damage to electronics AND prevents small breaks in the power from re-starting a computer or router. PC gamers who buy a high-end gaming machine will want to protect it. They can also plug in the PC and router (I don’t recommend the monitor) to prevent resets due to small spikes in power. There’s nothing worse than losing a game because the power spikes for half a second and restarts your modem / router.
Mechanical keyboards are ideal for gaming for a few reasons. They last far longer than a regular keyboard, which helps justify their high price. The click of the buttons is more satisfying and it’s easier to tell when the button has been pressed. (The reason most writers prefer mechanical keyboards, too.) Gamers also claim it’s easier to jam multiple buttons, double-tap buttons, and that mechanical keyboards respond better.
The Azio keyboard above feels nice, and it’s also one of the least-expensive gaming keyboards out there. You can see that the buttons are raised slightly, and spaced far enough apart that it’s easy to tell which key you’re on. I also love the clicking sound the keys make.
Mouse Cable Management with Style
Gamers want corded mice, but they come with their own problems. What you want when you’re gaming is a smooth, consistent feeling to the mouse. The cord gets in the way of that by slightly pulling the mouse to the back of the desk. Even more annoying, the cord can catch slightly on the edge of the desk as you pull it towards you, which can make your cursor slower than expected. Not a big deal for browsing the web, but pretty annoying when you’re trying to snipe.
Why not just use tape? Tape will probably tear off the finish on your desk, for one. It’s also difficult to adjust, and eventually loses it’s stick so the cord starts to slide back. Trust me, I’ve tried tape many times in several different configurations. It always fails. You can also use a clip, but then you have the same issues of drag along the clip, so you’re only solving half the problem.
The Razer Armadillo is essentially a giant clip that holds your mouse cord in place. It’s heavy enough that it won’t shift around, and grips to the desk well. You can adjust the cord forward or back based on how much slack you want in the cord with the press of a button.
Maintaining good posture over hours of sitting is hard, and we usually start to either lean forward or, more commonly, back into the chair. Most chairs don’t provide very good lumbar support. In fact, to sell chair that feel comfortable in the short term, most chair makers have the chair in a curved shape that is terrible for the lower back.
Every gamer, and everyone who sits in a chair for a long time, should either buy an adjustable ergonomic chair (expensive) or a lumbar support. This Love Home version is made with memory foam, but it also has a mesh coating to help it breathe and thus not get too hot. The adjustable strap can be configured to work with pretty much any chair with a back on it.
Computer and Keyboard Cleaning
Gamers need to clean their keyboards and such, but they’re also more likely to worry about dust gathering around the vents, fans, and heat sinks on their computers. Dust near a CPU or video card traps in heat and prevents the part from staying cool. Heat is very bad for computer parts – it reduces their life, can cause them to crash, and can even break the part. When you buy a $500 video card or high-end gaming laptop you don’t want it frying in a couple years. So, dust = bad.
Most people use compressed air, even though compressed air cans suck. You have to hold the can straight up, and if it gets to close to sensitive electronics it can freeze them and even break them. Don’t use compressed air for expensive parts.
This CompuCleaner blower works better than compressed air and has attachments that are great for cleaning out a heat sink or hard-to-reach place inside the computer.
Sitting is bad for you, but it gets really bad if you don’t move for a couple hours. Your metabolism slows, you can get blood clots, and your back starts to take damage. Prolonged sitting stretches also raise the risk of lots of different diseases and makes us generally grumpy and depressed. Luckily, most of this can be solved by getting up to move for 5 minutes every hour.
I would have loved to recommend Fitbit, but Fitbit still hasn’t added an option for notifications if you’ve been inactive too long. The best current product that does provide live notifications is the Garmin Vivosmart. It’s easier to use and generally better than the Jawbone products, and has a bunch of extra features for activity tracking. It also notifies you of notifications on your phone: another great feature for gamers who tend to leave their phones in the other room and miss calls while playing.
We’ve talked a lot about the dangers of bad posture already – so get a chair that helps eliminate bad posture. Gamers will appreciate adjustable arms that rise from the chair. Locked-position arms can run into the desk and make it difficult to get the right distance from the desk. Mesh on the back also helps prevent that gross sweaty feeling on your back. The bottom of the chair is padded, which should help reduce stress on the very low back.
Plugging lots of cables in and out is a pain. This USB hub allows you to plug up to 4 devices in without reaching down or around. It’s good for gamers who want to rest the headset cord on the dest rather than having it pull on one ear. You can plug your mouse into it to help with cable management. Also great for cell phone chargers with short cords. And again, you know it’s gaming gear because it glows in the dark. It’s USB 2.0, so it should be fast enough for most devices. The only exception might be an external hard drive.
Bonus: Amazon Gift Card
Amazon has really stepped up its game for gamers, especially when it comes to digital delivery. If none of these products seem right for the gamer you’re buying a gift for, you can’t go wrong with an Amazon gift card. I prefer to buy the physical card so that I have something to give, but there’s also an email delivery option if you’ve waited too long to buy a gift. You can also set any quantity you want.
Chris has a knack for finding gifts that are unique, useful, and memorable. He enjoys sharing his ideas and finding new presents for his loved ones in the process.